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How The Ooni of Ife is Selected; The Culture Behind the History of Ife People in Nigeria

This is the procedure how the Ooni of Ife is selected. The Ooni of Ife is one of the most important Kings in Yoruba land. He is considered the only living deity of the 201 deities that exist in the Yoruba kingdom.

The process of selecting the Ooni of Ife is steeped in deep cultural and traditional rites that has been preserved for many years. Following the death of the Ooni, the chief priest would consult the Ifa oracle to select the new Ooni from the ruling houses of Ife kingdom.

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Ile-Ife, The home of The Ooni of Ife

Ile-ife is an ancient Yoruba city located in Osun State in south west Nigeria. It is a fast developing city with increasing trade and commerce.

It is home to one of the biggest university in Nigeria; the Obafemi Awolowo University. It has a TV station known as NTA Ife and the Natural History Museum of Nigeria.

The people of Ile-Ife are predominantly Yoruba and they practice farming. Some of the crops grown here are yam, cassava, grains, tobacco and cotton. It is in Ile-Ife that the throne of the Ooni of Ife is located.


How Ile-Ife came to be seen as the holy city

According to Yoruba mythology, Olodumare, the Supreme God, ordered Obatala to create the earth but on his way he found palm wine which he drank and became intoxicated.

Therefore, the younger brother of the latter, Oduduwa, took the three items of creation from him, climbed down from the heavens on a chain and threw a handful of earth on the primordial ocean, then put a cockerel on it so that it would scatter the earth, thus creating the land on which Ile Ife would be built.

Oduduwa planted a palm nut in a hole in the newly formed land and from there sprang a great tree with sixteen branches, a symbolic representation of the clans of the early Ife city-state.

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The usurpation of creation by Oduduwa gave rise to the ever lasting conflict between him and his elder brother Obatala, which is still re-enacted in the modern era by the cult groups of the two clans during the Itapa New Year festival.

On account of his creation of the world, Oduduwa became the ancestor of the first divine king of the Yoruba, while Obatala is believed to have created the first Yoruba people out of clay. The meaning of the word “ife” in Yoruba is “expansion”; “Ile-Ife” is therefore in reference to the myth of origin “The Land of Expansion”.

Source: Wikipedia


The Ooni of Ife

The dynasty of Ooni traces its origin over 2000 years ago during the founding of the city. The throne of Ooni is regarded as a heritage of the Yoruba people and he is seen as the chief priest and custodian of the holy city of all the Yorubas. He is traditionally considered the 201st spirit (Orisha) and the only one that speaks. The Ooni of Ife is recognised internationally as a royal king following the meeting of the Yoruba Orisha congress in 1986. The present ruler is Adeyeye Ogunwusi and has the title of his Imperial Majesty.


Former Oonis of Ife According to The Ruling Houses

All Oonis of Ife kingdom have emanated from its four ruling houses who are seen as custodians of the heritage and direct bloodline of Oduduwa.


From the Lafogido Ruling House

Lafogido, Dejinle, Olojo (Agbele), Osinlade (Otutu), Akinmoyero (Odunle), Wunmonije, Adegunle (Abewela) and Ademiluyi (Ajagun) – eight rulers.


From the Oshinkola Branch

Osinkola, Aribiwoso, Ojigidiri (Lanibuwa), Kola (Oni-elect) and Aderemi (Atobatele) – five but only four substantive as Kola died before he could formally ascend the throne.


From the Ogboru Branch

Ogboru, Gbanlare, Adelekan (Olubuse), and Okunade Sijuwade (Olubuse II) – four rulers.


From the Giesi Branch

Giesi, Agbedegbede, Ajila-Oorun, Gbegbaaje, Degbin (Kumbusu), Orayigba (Ojaja) and Derin Ologbenla – seven rulers.



How A New Ooni Is Selected?


The next Ooni of ife can be selected from the four ruling houses which contains some of the most influential families in Nigeria. They include;

(1) Oshinkola House of Iremo: The Aderemis, Adewuyis, Adesanyas and Adeyemos

(2) Giesi House of Moore: The Ogunleyes, Adepegbas, Ologbenlas, Ademakinwas, Adewumis, Adejobas, Adewoyins, Olafares, Ogunwusis and Adegunjus

(3) Ogboru House of Ilare: The Sijuwades, Adefarakans and Mogaji Durojayes

(4) Lafogido House of Okerewe: The Ademiluyis, Adeyebas, Adeyinkas, Otutu and Adenijis


Any member of this family can become the next Ooni of Ife. The position of Ooni is hereditary and but it’s not passed from father to son. A ruling house can be by-passed, if the house is unable to produce a candidate. A female candidate can become the next Ooni of Ife which must be done in accordance to the Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957 and on two conditions;

  • All the male candidates presented by the ruling houses are found unsuitable
  • The female candidate is accepted by the kingmakers


Personal Qualities needed to become the Ooni of Ife

  • Integrity
  • Generosity
  • Humility
  • Willingness to listen to advice and take counsel.

The next Ooni of ife should be at least 30 years of old according to the Chieftaincy Declaration of 1957. Education is not a requirement for ascending the throne but it helps boost one’s chances.


How The Candidate Is Chosen?

The ruling house whose turn it is to produce the next Ooni of Ife is invited, through writing, by the appropriate government authority, to present a candidate for the throne of Ooni. If more than one candidates are selected, the names are then passed to the Obalufe and the Lowa. The Obalufe consults with the Chief on the left(outer chief) while Lowa consults with the chief on the left(inner chief) to decide on the right candidate. After the candidate has been approved, the name is then sent to State Government for ratification and approval under the Chieftaincy Laws.


Traditional Rites Required in Choosing A New Ooni After The Death of An Ooni


The chief priest to the Ooni throne is directly responsible for the coronation of a new Ooni after the passing away of the Ooni.


The chief priest would, after confirming the death of the Ooni,  consult the Ifa oracle; who will provide information as to how the traditional rites and rituals necessary for the burial of the Ooni would be carried out. Without this consultation no ceremony for the burial shall take place.


After it has been certified that the Ooni is dead, his demise would be informed to all Oduduwa children including; the Alaafin of Oyo, the descendant of Oranmiyan Akinorun, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, the Oba of Benin, the Onipopo of Popo, the Onisabe of Sabe, and the Owa Obokun Adimula.


Some sacrifices would be performed by the priest. The palace’s main gate would be closed and a town crier would go round town with a gong to announce the death of the king.


Trees would be caught down in the city and all market will be temporary shut down. The city would be in mourning for the demise of the King. All the 201 dieties temples will be informed of the death of the Ooni.


After the new Ooni is crowned, all the Yoruba Monarchs would accord him the respect and honour he deserves as a King.







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